Copyeditors are some of the most generous people I know. They’re also an unusually wise and sometimes wisecracking group. More than 70 editors have generously participated in our editor interviews here on Copyediting. They have offered tips, techniques, resources, amusement, encouragement, and advice both general and specific.
I encourage you to take the time to read all of the interviews and watch for those yet to come. In the meantime, here are a few words of wisdom gathered from past interviews.
Words for the Wise
It’s so basic, but I think sometimes as editors we get carried away with our red pens, so to speak, and can come off as snarky. … My job is to help them, not give them grammar lectures.
– Maggie Biroscak
Those two words will get you a long way. Read a variety of publications, and pay attention to how they differ. If you're applying for a job, pay attention to how that employer does things, and let the interviewer know you've paid attention. Once you're hired, pay attention to what you're told, and to how your work gets changed. Don't make anybody tell you the same thing twice.
– Bill Walsh
Let go of what you like.
Everyone has their own style sheet and chances are good you'll disagree with some of what's on it. Be flexible and remember that it's not “your” project.
– Jeannette de Beauvoir
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be intimidated by anything.
If you don’t know the answer to something, your reader might not either. Read all that you can on language and on the industry you are in.
– Christine Steele
Words for the Wise Freelancer
From little things big things grow.
Success doesn’t come over night. Decide what you want and do it.
– Cassie Armstrong
Time management is key.
Someone told me that the great thing about being self-employed is that you only have to work half days — and you get to pick which 12 hours you work!
– Amy J. Schneider
Befriend your inner extrovert.
When we’re editing, we get to sit in the introvert’s comfort zone, but “freelancing” is building a business, and for that I think it’s essential to find ways to connect with people.
– Kyra Freestar
Words for the Wise Wannabe Newspaper Copyeditor
Consider a vocation in a religious order.
Then at least someone might feed you.
– John McIntyre
Don't do it. Just kidding.
Truly educated people with broad knowledge and a strong work ethic will always be in demand and valuable.
– Pam Nelson
Don’t just embrace change, try to direct it.
– Gerri Berendzen
Words for the Wise Compulsive Reader of Reference Books
Read the front of your dictionary.
That section called “Guide to the Dictionary” or “How to Use This Dictionary” or some variation of that is a gold mine.
– June Casagrande
Words for the Wise Wordworker Fueled By Heavily Caffeinated Beverages
Get a good coffeemaker and find a coffee you really like.
– Andy Hollandbeck